When I first started Ink Spells a year ago, I drew upon many years of searching for appropriate reads for my advanced-reading sons, ages 6, 8 and 10 at the time. Well, Dark Omen will be turning twelve this week, and while he still enjoys middle grade books, he is quickly gravitating toward (and able to handle) books with darker themes, more violence, and even the occasional love interest interaction (which he mostly just tolerates). The difference between the maturity of an eight-year-old and a ten-year-old is dramatic, but the difference between a ten-year-old and a twelve-year-old is even more so. And yet, he is not really ready for adult books – either in content or maturity level – or even many of the teen books to be found on the YA shelves at the book store.
Fortunately, the publishing industry has begun to recognize the need for books targeting kids ages 12-14. These books generally feature younger teens ages 14-16, and are almost clean enough to be considered middle grade reads – except that they generally have darker, more mature themes, often more sophisticated subject matter, and have some kind of underlying (yet not heavily explored) romance themes.
While boys may not be generally interested in the romance themes, I have two minds about this: 1) I don’t want my twelve year old reading a lot of the mature material found in some YA books, and 2) I think even boys should have some exposure to the complex emotional dance with the opposite sex that starts in the teen years and will continue throughout their lives. For heavy readers, such as my children, the books they read have a significant influence on their world experience, and so I continue to want to guide their reading towards books that will have a positive effect on them.
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Tomorrow: Ink Spells reviews its first Young Teens novel, so be sure to stop back!